The last few years have created a lapse in connection between businesses and consumers at a scale that the modern world has never experienced. The habits and loyalties of customers and guests have loosened as their lives and schedules were upended, leaving a significant portion of the market in a state of flux. As we slowly find a new rhythm for our lives and the economy, businesses find themselves in a stressful position as they prepare to open their doors in a new era. For the theming and experience industries, the next few months are a crucial make-or-break period wherein they can gain new demographics, or collapse entirely.
The name of the game is “change”. A lot has changed over the course of the pandemic, and although people crave a familiar experience, that doesn’t mean your park or themed experience should go unchanged. In fact, coming out of the pandemic unchanged could be a death sentence for the business. Consumers are living in a dramatically changed world, and businesses refusing to make the leap feel outdated and tone-deaf when contrasted with those who embraced change and used the pandemic to grow.
Making investments in new initiatives and building new infrastructure right now is a scary prospect. With many businesses, especially theme parks and experiences as services, experiencing a painful downturn in revenue, it feels like there’s very little room for error when making your grand re-opening. Here are some insightful points to help guide your thinking as you reimagine your experience:
BUILD FOR PEOPLE – Stress levels for many are at an all time high, which means a lot of value is placed on things that help them feel less stressed. In order to deliver on this, focus your thinking and investments on creating a clearly communicated experience for the guest. That could mean re-imagining your signage and wayfinding, changing the physical layout of your park, or offering more opportunities for refuge within the space. Creating pockets of nature using artificial greenery like green walls, green screen partitions, garden wall dividers is an efficient way to create a more soothing environment while also helping to delineate space and alter spaces without heavy construction.
A guest should never be left wondering where to go, what to do next, or how to get there. Your goal is to anticipate the needs of new guests, and ensure that their experience is intuitive and gently guided in a way that alleviates worry but also does not force them into a completely linear path. People need to feel that they have choices and that their choices matter, even if the choice is ultimately an illusion.
CREATE CONSISTENCY – Coming out of a time in which products go out of stock for months, restaurant and business hours change constantly, and cancellations have become commonplace, people are in desperate need of consistency. Whatever you plan to do with your reimagined experience, it must be manageable, and sustainable in the long term. Guest patience is greatly diminished, and their loyalties are likely unsolidified and highly impressionable – creating trust and consistency has never been more important. Going hand-in-hand with building for people, it’s important to create a journey of consistent quality no matter how a guest chooses to engage with your experience.
DIGITIZE – In the past, there has been a hesitance in some generations to learn and integrate with technology, opting instead to use analog solutions that they find more familiar. However, the new social distance norms put in place by the pandemic have forced many analog holdouts into technological literacy. A greater percentage of the population has now grown comfortable with email correspondence, QR code menus, digital maps and wayfinding, and other digital solutions. You can save on overhead by maintaining the digital contact you’ve likely started during the pandemic and replacing other processes and infrastructure with digital solutions. Technology also opens the door to new vectors for your experience with interactive experiences and Augmented Reality opportunities.